Alterations of consciousness in psychogenic nonepileptic seizures: Emotion, emotion regulation and dissociation.

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University, Glendale, AZ, USA. Electronic address: .
Epilepsy & Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.06). 11/2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2013.09.035
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Impairment of consciousness and reduced self-control are key features of most psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs), although, compared with patients with epilepsy, those with PNESs demonstrate greater conscious awareness during their seizures. The neurobiological underpinnings of PNESs and of alterations of awareness associated with PNESs remain relatively unknown. We suggest that an understanding of conscious experiences and discrepancies between subjective impairment of consciousness and the lack of objectifiable neurobiological changes in PNESs may benefit from an examination of emotion processing, including understanding sensory, situational, and emotional triggers of PNESs; emotional and physiological changes during the attacks; and styles of emotional reactivity and regulatory capacity. We also suggest that in addition to the typical comparisons between patients with PNESs and those with epilepsy, studies of PNESs would benefit from the inclusion of comparison groups such as those with PTSD, dissociation, and other forms of psychopathology where dissociative and emotion regulatory mechanisms have been explored more fully. We conclude that current evidence and theory suggest that impairment of consciousness in PNESs is only "dissociative" in one subgroup of these seizures, when consciousness is suppressed as a collateral effect of the excessive inhibition of emotion processing. We propose that PNES behaviors and experiences of reduced control or awareness may also represent direct behavioral manifestation of overwhelming emotions, or that minor emotional fluctuations or relatively neutral stimuli may trigger PNESs through conditioning or other preconscious processes. Future studies exploring the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning PNESs are likely to be more fruitful if researchers bear in mind that it is unlikely that all PNESs result from the same processes in the brain. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Epilepsy and Consciousness.

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    ABSTRACT: This study examined implicit and explicit anxiety in individuals with epilepsy and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs) and explored whether these constructs were related to experiential avoidance and seizure frequency. Based on recent psychological models of PNESs, it was hypothesized that nonepileptic seizures would be associated with implicit and explicit anxiety and experiential avoidance. Explicit anxiety was measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory; implicit anxiety was measured by an Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure; and experiential avoidance was measured with the Multidimensional Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire. Although both groups with epilepsy and PNESs scored similarly on implicit measures of anxiety, significant implicit–explicit anxiety discrepancies were only identified in patients with PNESs (p < .001). In the group with PNESs (but not in the group with epilepsy), explicit anxiety correlated with experiential avoidance (r = .63, p < .01) and frequency of seizures (r = .67, p < .01); implicit anxiety correlated with frequency of seizures only (r = .56, p < .01). Our findings demonstrate the role of implicit anxiety in PNESs and provide additional support for the contribution of explicit anxiety and experiential avoidance to this disorder.
    Epilepsy & Behavior 04/2014; 33:77–86. DOI:10.1016/j.yebeh.2014.02.016 · 2.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) often report symptoms of dissociation. However, it is unclear how these symptoms relate to psychotherapeutic treatment, for example, with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Here, we investigated the degree of overlap between symptoms of dissociation and other psychiatric features that are more traditional targets for CBT. We used a hierarchical linear regression to measure the variance associated with dissociative symptoms (as assessed by the Dissociative Experiences Scale - DES) among 46 individuals with PNESs. The regression predictor variables are indices of participants' self-rated mood, self-efficacy, quality of life, locus of control, and life outlook (e.g., optimism). Results revealed that 70.2% of the variance associated with DES score was explained by psychological distress and locus of control. The other factors examined did not make a significant contribution to the regression model. These results suggest that traditional CBT targets - mood symptoms, mood distress, and dysfunctional beliefs about locus of control - overlap substantially with self-reported dissociative symptoms.
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Jun 19, 2014